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Brain Implants

PostPosted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:58 pm
by Prasanth
Brain Implants, often referred to as neural implants, are technological devices that connect directly to a biological subject's brain - usually placed on the surface of the brain, or attached to the brain's cortex. A common purpose of modern brain implants and the focus of much current research is establishing a biomedical prosthesis circumventing areas in the brain, which became dysfunctional after a stroke or other head injuries. This includes sensory substitution, e.g. in vision. Brain implants involve creating interfaces between neural systems and computer chips, popularly called brain-machine interfaces.

The aim of the seminars is to discuss an emerging technology developed by Emory University neuroscientist Philip R. Kennedy, M.D., and Emory neurosurgeon Roy E. Bakay, M.D.. They have developed an electrode brain implant that is allowing speech-impaired patients to communicate through a computer. Dr. Kennedy, who refers to this technology as "cognitive engineering," developed and patented the neurotrophic brain implant while on the faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the late 1980s. He later worked with Dr. Bakay to implant the electrode in primates at the Yerkes Primate Research Center at Emory. The implant has been tested on three individuals; the most recent was implanted with two electrodes in July 1999.

Historical research on brain implants

In 1870, Eduard Hitzig and Gustav Fritsch demonstrated that electrical strimulation of certain areas in the brain of dogs could result in movements. Robert Bartholow showed the same to be true for humans in 1874. By the start of the 20th century Fedor Krause could do a systematic mapping of human brain areas, using patients that had undergone brain surgery.

Starting from the 1950s, in the US, CIA-funded projects, as e.g. MKULTRA, did a lot of research in mind control techniques. According to Jose Delgado, "the feasibility of remote control of activities in several species of animals has been demonstrated [...] The ultimate objective of this research is to provide an understanding of the mechanisms involved in the directional control of animals and to provide practical systems suitable for human application." (cited in Keith, Mind Control, p. 130). Robert G. Heath did experiments with aggressive mental patients, where they could influence their own mood by electrical stimulation. Jose Delgado, involved in the Pandora Project, who later was to write a popular book on mind control, called "Physical Control of the Mind", invented the stimoceiver or transdermal stimulator a device that, implanted in the brain, can transmit electrical impulses.

Ethical considerations

Some futurologists, such as Raymond Kurzweil, see brain implants as part of a next step for humans in progress and evolution, whereas others, especially bioconservatives, view them as unnatural, with humankind losing essential human qualities. It is argued that implants would technically change people into cybernetic organisms (cyborgs). Some people fear implants may be used for mind control, e.g. to change human perception of reality

Brain implants in fiction and philosophy

In Hilary Putnam's argument of the brain in a vat, he argues that brains, being directly fed with an input from a computer (instead of reality), would have no chance of detecting the deception. The popular 1999 film The Matrix, and its sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both in 2003, have expanded upon this argument, positing a world where machines have conquered humanity and placed the bodies in arrays to use for power, and are keeping them alive by immersing their minds in a computer-based constructed reality.